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Culture and the Environment in the Pacific Northwest

Publication Type:

Journal Article


American Political Science Review, Volume 91, p.885- (1997)



Douglas and Wildavsky argue that environmental activism is rooted in an egalitarian cultural bias. Others, like Paehlke, counter that environmental commitments and concerns are autonomous from redistributive concerns. Students of the "New Politics" agree that environmentalism is autonomous from conventional left-right distributive concerns but also argue that environmental attitudes and beliefs are embedded in "postmaterial" values, such as citizen participation. Still other scholars emphasize a cultural consensus around environmental values and beliefs. What distinguishes environmental activists, in this view, is less what they believe than their willingness to make sacrifices for those values and beliefs. Drawing upon several surveys of environmental groups and the mass public in the Pacific Northwest, we test these four hypotheses and find that the Douglas-Wildavsky "cultural theory," although not without its limitations, appears to provide the more satisfactory account of environmental preferences.